Thursday, January 7, 2021

Q Toon: Cast Away

Pre-S.: All of this had been written before yesterday.
While we're waiting to find out whether democracy can survive the onslaught from RePutschlicans, there has been a little controversy lately over the casting of cisgender, straight actors in LGBTQ+ roles in movies and on television.

The latest wave comes after James Corden's performance as a gay theater actor in "The Prom." I haven't seen it myself, but Corden has been criticized for portraying his character, Barry Glickman, as a flamboyant, self-important, swishy, insulting caricature of a theater queen — as, no doubt, the character was written and the director wanted him acted.

So the knock on Corden is that he took a role away from a card-carrying member of both SAG and the LGBTQ+ community. Had Dan Levy portrayed Barry Glickman as a flamboyant, self-important, swishy, insulting caricature of a theater queen, everything would be hunky-dory.

We can go down the rabbit hole of whether only gay actors should play gay characters, left-handed actors should portray left-handed characters, Catholic actors should play Catholic characters, evil masterminded actors should play evil masterminded characters, ad infinitum until ad domum revertir vaccarum.

There is nevertheless a serious issue here. While television has been making great progress in LGBTQ+ visibility, the people who make movies are in the habit of casting their top grossing actors in leading roles whether those roles suit them or not. Witness John Wayne as Genghis Khan in "The Conqueror," Natalie Wood as Maria in "West Side Story," Burt Lancaster as Massai in "Apache," and most cringe-worthy, Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yoniushi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," or just about any other portrayal of Chinese or Japanese characters by actors of European descent.

Transgender actors and activists question whether someone who is not transgender can fully appreciate how a transgender person thinks and feels. And some cisgender actors, lesbigay and straight, are coming to agree, including actors like Jeffrey Tambor and Wilson Cruz who have portrayed trans characters in the past.

The flip side of the coin, of course, is that LGBTQ+ actors could be limited to playing only LGBTQ+ roles. No Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson. No Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes. No Ian McKellen as King Lear.

But I guess it makes no difference to the plot if you imagine that Gandalf is gay.

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